Tag Archives: Technology

Michael Taylor FDA

Food Safety Over Past 25 Years: ‘Everything Has Changed’

By Maria Fontanazza
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Michael Taylor FDA

The effect that the 1993 E. coli O157:H7 outbreak had on the food industry was tremendous. Responsible for more than 600 illnesses and the deaths of four children, the outbreak led to significant changes in the industry’s approach to food safety. “[It] drove a shift in food safety that many had been working toward for years,” said Rima Khabbaz, M.D., acting deputy director for infectious diseases at CDC during the “We Were There” CDC lecture series, adding that the focus moved to food suppliers and how they could make their products safer. “The outbreak drove a paradigm shift that opened the door to food safety,” said Patricia Griffin, M.D., chief of the CDC’s enteric diseases epidemiology branch during the lecture.

Deirdre Schlunegger and Michael Taylor
Deirdre Schlunegger, CEO of Stop Foodborne Illness, and Michael Taylor at Stop event celebrating Food Safety Heroes during the 2015 Food Safety Consortium.

Within a few years, several actions and initiatives paved the way for notable progress. In 1994, Mike Taylor, who was administrator of USDA’s FSIS at the time, made a speech that “shocked and outraged the industry,” said Griffin, where he stated, “we consider raw ground beef that is contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 to be adulterated within the meaning of the Federal Meat Inspection Act.” From there, the USDA worked on the first major advance in meat regulation. In 1996 the agency established the Pathogen Reduction Rule to improve meat inspection. The same year CDC’s PulseNet was born, the nationwide lab network that uses DNA fingerprinting to help identify outbreaks early, along with the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet), an epidemiological system that tracks incidents and trends related to food.

In a Q&A with Food Safety Tech, Mike Taylor, most recently the former FDA commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, discusses the dramatic change that industry has undergone during the past 25 years, from FSMA to technology advancements to food safety culture.

Food Safety Past, Present and Future at the 2017 Food Safety Consortium: Recognizing the 1993 Jack In the Box E. coli outbreak as the event that propelled the current food safety movement. Mike Taylor, Bill Marler, Esq. and Ann Marie McNamara (Target Corp.), who took the reins from the late David Theno at Jack In the Box, will discuss Theno’s impact on the industry. The session continues through a timeline of the evolution of food safety from 1993 to present, and then the future, where we will cover the IoT, social media, food safety culture and technology. It will be followed by the STOP Foodborne Illness Award Ceremony. Wednesday, November 29, 2017, 4:00–5:30 pm | LEARN MORE

Food Safety Tech: Reflecting on how far the industry has come since the E.coli O157:H7 outbreak involving Jack in the Box in 1993, what key areas of progress have been made since?

Michael Taylor: I think there are very major ones obviously. You have to remember where things were when the Jack-in-the-Box [outbreak] happened. We were in a place where USDA programs said it was not responsible for pathogens in raw meat and that consumers are supposed to cook the product; [and] industry was operating under traditional methods. Microbial methods were typically conducted for quality not for safety; you had the loss of public confidence and a terrible situation in which consumers were pointing at industry, and industry was pointing at consumers, and no one was taking clear responsibility for safety of the product.

Now we are in a completely different environment where not only is there clarity about industry’s responsibility for monitoring pathogens, there’s also been enormous progress by industry to put in place microbial testing, something David Theno pioneered and is now a central part of food safety management systems for meat safety.

Everything has changed.

These [institutional] arrangements exist not only in the meat industry, but now across the whole food industry. There’s the emergence of GFSI taking responsibility for managing the supply chain for food safety, food safety culture taking hold broadly across leading companies in the industry, and FSMA codifying for 80% of the food supply that FDA regulates the principles of risk-based prevention and continuous improvement on food safety.

I think it’s rather dramatic how far the industry’s food safety regulatory system has come since [the] Jack in the Box [outbreak].

FST: How has FSMA helped to align industry priorities?

Michael Taylor FDA
Mike Taylor was on the front lines of change in the meat industry.

Taylor: Let’s focus on the events first leading up to FSMA—for example, the outbreaks or illnesses associated with leafy greens [and] peanut butter, and problems with imported products—those events in the world aligned industry priorities around the need to modernize the food safety laws and to enact FSMA. It was the coming together of industry and consumer interests, and the expert community around the principles of comprehensive risk-based prevention that vaporized into FSMA. Now FSMA is the framework within which companies are organizing their food safety systems in accordance with these modern principles of prevention.

And clearly what’s been codified in FSMA and some of the key elements are becoming organizing principles where industry is aligning our priorities for food safety. Environmental monitoring where that’s an appropriate verification control for a company’s hygiene and pathogen control—that’s clearly a priority that folks are aligning on. The issue of supplier verification for domestic and foreign supply is a priority that has been elevated by FSMA, and so has the whole issue of training and employee capacity, whether it’s in processing facilities or on farms, as well as food safety culture. If you’re going to be effectively preventive you need to deal with the human dimension of your food safety system.

These are examples of ways in which FSMA is aligning industry priorities.

Read the rest of the interview on page 2 (link below).

Jordan Anderson, PAR Technology Corp.
FST Soapbox

How Proper Record Keeping Can Help Reduce Food Waste in the Supply Chain

By Jordan Anderson
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Jordan Anderson, PAR Technology Corp.

One stringent component of FSMA and the Final Rule on Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food is record keeping. Depending on the type and size of business, the FDA can demand proof of record anywhere from under one year and upwards to two years, all while needing to address their inquiry within 24 hours. Failure to do so will be considered a “prohibited act” and violators can be tried for civil and criminal penalties.
This new rule, put in place by the FDA, will put immense pressure on the food transportation industry, not only to make food safety a priority, but also to ensure that proper food safety practices and measures are being properly implemented, by way of record keeping.

While the litany of rules and regulations pertaining to record keeping best practices is intense, let us break down the basic requirements applying to records in layman’s terms:

  • If HACCP procedures aren’t documented, it didn’t happen
  • Records must be verbatim accounts of what happened
    • The need for real-time recording is paramount
  • Corrective actions must be executed immediately if an issue occurs
    • If not, liability risk increases exponentially

Companies must determine the most efficient and plausible manner by which they will comply. Traditional storage of records in filing cabinets and input of data in spreadsheets is antiquated, and leads to errors and the potential for misplaced records. Now, more than ever, is the time for businesses along the food chain to deliver value to their organization via digital technologies and automated data gathering solutions. This will ensure constant visibility and ensure quality control throughout the process from farm to fork.

Where Does Waste Happen?

While covering a lettuce farm in central California, National Geographic discovered that numerous loads were dumped each day due to procedural mistakes , including improperly filled, labeled and sealed containers.1 Due to the mishaps, the loads were then dumped. Between April and November that year, the local Waste Authority landfilled 4–8 million pounds of fresh vegetables from those fields.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that:

  • 54% of world food waste occurs during production, handling and storage
  • 46% occurs during processing & distribution

These numbers are not only staggering, but they illustrate the seriousness of this issue.

Many of these mishaps occur when standard recording procedures are done manually, which leads to improper documentation that invalidates the integrity of shipments—to which the above figures illustrate and corroborate.

But can shippers, loaders, receivers and the like secure their procedures and eliminate wasted product by implementing stricter digital HACCP solutions?

Lost Food

While improper execution of best practices can lead to FDA imposed sanctions and profit loss, it also perpetuates the problem of food waste globally. This issue has become an epidemic and one that greatly affects the lives of many.

In a recent National Geographic article, The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) suggests the following:1

  • One-third of food produced for global human consumption is annually lost or wasted along the supply chain
  • Food waste equates to 2.8 trillion pounds each year, which is enough to feed 3 billion people per year

Consider this: The World Food Programme estimates that nearly 795 million people in the world do not have access to the proper amount of food needed to live a healthy, active life, which equates to roughly one in nine people on earth.

The amount of waste created along the supply chain each year is enough to feed the hungry and malnourished people of the world three-times over. While waste is inevitable, even a 50% improvement would be able to feed those most in need.
We understand the nature of business is overcoming competition while expending the least capital possible, ultimately leading to profit. However, food-related businesses along the supply chain must ask themselves whether or not they are their own competition. Are best practices being properly executed? How can they ensure this in order to mitigate waste?

Ultimately, however, it becomes a human issue. Companies must be responsible and possess the empathy to understand this. While domestically we may not feel the effects of global hunger as much as other third-world countries, these businesses must be aware of the epidemic in order to elucidate this topic while simultaneously maximizing its businesses potential.

By leveraging new food safety solutions such as mobile devices, the cloud, IoT, sensors and more, you can better protect your customers while also gaining a tangible ROI. Wherever consumers purchase and shop for food today, they are likely to find a larger selection than ever before. From the bread aisle to the cheese counter to the produce section, food options and manufacturing processes today are more diverse than ever. While variety is positive on a consumer and cultural level, it can create challenges for food safety from farm to fork.

Reference

  1.  Royte, E. (October 13, 2014). “One-Third of Food Is Lost or Wasted: What Can Be Done”. National Geographic. Retrieved from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/10/141013-food-waste-national-security-environment-science-ngfood/.
John Sammon, ParTech
FST Soapbox

Keeping Food Safe using IoT in the Digital Supply Chain

By John Sammon III
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John Sammon, ParTech

Technology advancement continues to mature at a fairly predictable rate in terms of processing speed, size, battery life and perhaps most importantly, costs. Whereas 100 years ago the telephone, followed by the radio, were just being invented, today we are steadily marching toward a 100 gigabyte / second transfer rate. These conditions are what originally launched the Information Age and it now clears a path for 50 billion connected devices in the next three to five years.

To me, “Internet of Things” (IoT) is one of those catch-all phrases that encompasses so many different technologies, value propositions and solution sets. This means that when we discuss IoT, we can be talking about a device in your home or a device used to monitor the stability of a section of the Alaskan pipeline between Coldfoot and Deadhorse. Therefore, we should condense the topic at hand down to cold chain logistics and IoT.

The cold chain is an uninterrupted supply chain we control so temperature is maintained to ensure both quality and safety of food. This includes all segments of food production, transport, warehousing, distribution, handling, preparation and storage.

Environmental conditions are essential in both quality and safety for proper food logistics, and therefore this industry was among the first to proliferate IoT. It began 15 years ago in the “over the road” and “rail” transport space when companies began to use satellite and cellular technologies to track and monitor the status, well-being and health of temperature-controlled cargos. The real-time nature of these solutions and the cloud-based historical records were the foundation of IoT as we understand it today.

Whereas these earlier solutions focused on the segments of supply chain where risks are most high, today IoT technology is implemented from source to destination. Smart devices are showing up all over the supply chain. These independent devices can work independently or collectively to capture and even halt food contamination before it happens. Temperature is essential, but more and more food safety IoT will detect gases, along with other environmental conditions that can predict and accurately report the evidence of pathogens.

But what is driving the IoT adoption? How do these disparate technologies come together in a cohesive way to build solutions that are proficient and economical? And perhaps most importantly, what is next?

Why

Consumer demand for fresher, safer and responsibly sourced foods are driving much of the IoT adoption. More retailers are focusing on customer loyalty and trust as key metrics for success. So whether it is blueberries 12 months out of the year, or whole meal replacements such as a vegetarian lasagna, people want more than low cost; they= want transparency and quality. This demand drives behavior throughout the supply chain.

How

The technology required to make this happen is ubiquitous and indeed, fascinating. Starting with the sensor technology first, we are seeing more “things” that can detect. In addition, the intelligence embedded in the devices provides accurate performance while preserving battery life, by reporting on exceptions.

The delivery of information has improved with multi- modes using cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, RFID, and various other scan/read technologies. Wireless is everywhere.

We are also seeing the explosion of APIs in all IoT solution sets. API stands for “Application Programing Interface”. Web APIs are a framework that allows for future functionality within applications. APIs allow the building of HTTP services that are compatible with a broad range of clients (sensors, mobile devices and browsers). This framework sets a standard for how different components of software should interact with one another.

The development and advancement of cloud technology acts as the backbone of all IoT. These central repositories of data (which becomes information) virtually never go down, are endlessly scalable and elastic without which there would be no internet.

Lastly, we have mobility. Mobility can be wearable or a handheld. The app plays a critical role in the proliferation of IoT. Smart devices are essential to solutions when stakeholders are everywhere throughout the supply chain. The application to see real-time information and track progress lives in Google Play and iTunes stores. Mobility coupled with wireless allows for real-time alerting and alarming directly to responsible stakeholders.

What’s Next

I believe that we will begin to see more “Solutions of Solutions”: Systems created out of many different technologies that when brought together generate widespread value.

As an example, global sourcing coupled with sophisticated, informed consumers has yielded technologies such as IBM’s Blockchain, which is designed for a single version of truth about a product from source to origin. Similar to Bitcoin, this technology allows for a decentralized exchange of valuable information whereby all participants benefit in the sharing of data.

The largest U.S.-based retailers are investing millions of dollars in these traceability technologies, not just to protect their brands, but because consumers expect transparency, demand quality and seek sustainability. The laws of economics (supply and demand) dictate that those that source these foods, such as meats, fishes, fruits and vegetables, must then also invest in technologies that share data.

However, because the Blockchain concept is designed such that no one single entity controls enterprise-wide information, the entire supply chain becomes transparent, which yields trust that everyone owns access and visibility. Each source of data in the chain is interdependent upon other sources, therefore all are compelled to behave rationally and responsibly. At its foundation, Blockchain is a database of information from (n) sources whereby a decentralized structure yields shared values for all stakeholders.

FoodLogiQ Recall Response, SaaS

New Technology Helps Companies Respond to Recalls Faster

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FoodLogiQ Recall Response, SaaS

A recent survey found that many consumers expect a recall to be resolved within one to two days. Today one company released a product touted as the first real-time software as a service (SaaS) platform for managing recall and stock withdrawal with the goal of helping food companies respond to recalls faster.

Recall + Response, launched by FoodLogiQ, allows food companies to implement a targeted recall strategy across the supply chain and track the progress of the recall. An automated communications function (via phone, email and text) sends notifications that can accelerate the delivery of information throughout the supply chain during a recall. The platform can initiate stock withdrawals and recalls, as well as mock recalls. Its features include withdrawal templates that the user can define and create to prepare for recalls and stock withdrawals, and a mock recall feature to test the recall readiness of a user’s supply chain. It also has an automatic escalation function if no action is taken by a location or no contact is made in a specific timeframe.

Randy Fields, Repositrak
FST Soapbox

Food Safety Technology Disrupters

By Randy Fields
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Randy Fields, Repositrak

We’ve all heard about the latest disrupters in the retail supply chain, like the Internet of Things, wearable computers, cognitive analytics, machine learning and even the new value chain in which these technologies intercede to provide a better and more accurate shopping experience for consumers. There are also developments like digital fabrication that interacts with both the consumer and appliances to improve the way product gets to the consumer from the point of production.

Technology disrupters can fundamentally change supply chains, destroying existing ones and creating new ones. Other disruptions can be caused by not a single technology but by several new and existing technologies that come together in innovative ways. Smart retailers and their trading partners are working to judge the impact of these technology disrupters before or at least as they occur. They need to be more proactive by investing in key areas of strategy, culture and partnership.

A company’s supply chain can be the weakest link in its food safety program. Learn how to mitigate these risks at the Food Safety Supply Chain conference | June 5-6, 2017

Many of the technology disrupters in food safety are based on the growing ability to apply analytics, including machine learning, to drive a better understanding of and increase the personalized relationships with the consumer, and to glean insight from all the data being collected. Knowing exactly what information shoppers require to feel safe with the products they are buying from you can only help build and maintain a great reputation. Further, analytics help companies predict and address the weakest links on the production floor and in their own extended supply chain to keep those customers free from potentially deadly pathogens.

Cloud computing for the delivery of IT and business processes as digital services is transforming the food safety world through the unprecedented speed and agility it enables for mobile and social engagement. Telling your customers that a recalled product could cause an illness used to require lots of phone calls or even snail mail, but now technologies in the cloud facilitate almost instantaneous messaging of the warning to whole or subsets of a population. This is just one of the ways that everyone from shoppers to business people are changing the way they interact with each other and the way we all do business due to the cloud.

Security in general and cybersecurity specifically are disrupters for companies concerned with food safety, because they can fall prey to sophisticated hackers and other crooks that try to ransom a business’ reputation in the digital world. Think how important it is to protect your own information as well as that of your consumers and customers for payment details and personal data. Now add health data to the mix and you’ll recognize the critical nature of the issue.

All of these technology disrupters have the potential to seriously impair your food safety plans and procedures, but they can also help you better deploy resources to address individual food safety emergencies and ongoing issues. Knowing the impact of the disruption is the first step in addressing it; then you need to develop a plan that helps you take advantage of the positive sides of the disruption and eliminate the negative ones.

Jeff Rieger, Digi International
Retail Food Safety Forum

IoT a Key Ingredient for Food Safety

By Jeff Rieger
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Jeff Rieger, Digi International

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the concept that everything will one day be connected, similar to when computers became networked and connected with the internet. A sensor in a walk-in freezer is now smart enough to communicate directly with the smartphone in your pocket and a computer at the office, all in real-time. This is what IoT is all about, bringing more information to our fingertips in order to make faster, more informed decisions.

These new technologies are beginning to intersect and create new solutions to old problems, such as periodically monitoring the temperature of equipment in a restaurant or the trailer of a refrigerated truck. Savvy operators who understand changing food safety regulatory demands are driving the adoption of these technologies that ease the transition towards ongoing compliance. Food safety technology is changing, and what follows are a few of the driving forces.

Smartphones, Tablets and Cloud Computing Create Ready-made Environment

Apple launched the first iPhone in 2007 and within six years, 50% of the U.S. population was using a smartphone and/or tablet. Another market event that helped create the foundation for IoT was the growth of the “cloud” model where organizations could “rent” hardware, software and data storage. When coupled with new affordable wireless networking capabilities (WiFi, Bluetooth) and expanded cellular coverage at decreased cost rates for data, it became economically viable for nearly any size company operating in the foodservice industry to collect, store and access data.

Over the course of the last decade, we’ve become more comfortable living in a connected world and, as the technology has matured, businesses started to look at how smart devices could be used to improve operational efficiency and outdated food safety protocols. Instead of manually checking equipment temperatures, wireless sensors are now connecting refrigerators and other temperature controlled environments to the cloud. Any operator with a smartphone is now able to view these temperatures (or receive alerts) in real-time to ensure equipment and product temperatures meet company standards and local regulatory requirements.

Heightened Diligence by Oversight Agencies, Increased Consumer Activism and Brand Protection Concern

The responsibility for food safety spans both national (FDA/USDA/CDC) and local (state and county health department) organizations. FSMA has widened these responsibilities across the cold chain. With limited resources, operators are being asked to adopt new regulations and do their part to ensure the integrity of the product that is being stored and/or transported.

In addition, consumers have become increasingly self-aware regarding various food-related issues, including oversight and traceability (i.e.  labeling, processing, etc.). This same general trend can be seen where consumers are now expecting ongoing food safety inspections and access to inspection results online. This puts more pressure on operators to ensure guidelines are met and inspections are passed.

Finally, restaurants are becoming more proactive in protecting their brand. The idea of keeping any incidents limited to the awareness of only the few that were involved is a thing of the past. Forward-thinking restaurants realize that social media has changed the landscape, and what was once a single-store minor infraction can now cause franchise-wide problems. Additionally, food safety is just good business. Restaurants have moved beyond following procedures as a necessary hurdle to now actively following and implementing best practices and policies in order to achieve operational efficiency and elevate their brand reputation.

IoT the Enabler of a Data-driven Business

Simply put, the internet has reshaped all businesses, so why not restaurants and the cold chain? With the availability of “ready-made tech”, sensors can connect to front-of-house and back-of-house environments to monitor temperature (frozen, refrigerated, ambient, hot-holding) in all types of equipment (walk-in refrigerators and freezers, under-counter coolers, showcase units and sandwich lines)  to continuously and wirelessly monitor temperature and send alerts if the proper temperature is not maintained.

Data gathering can also be extended to incorporate digital task management capabilities to replace traditional Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) manual logbooks and simplify daily restaurant tasks. Organizations can streamline manual operational checklists and provide insight to managers on how well their teams are adhering to restaurant guidelines.

Restaurants now have an important tool to address the two sides of food safety—prevention and traceability. Additionally, through capturing larger data sets, restaurants can move from anecdotal guesswork to implementing data-based best practices. The ingredients are now in place for restaurants to offer the highest levels of food safety and quality that the industry has ever enjoyed.

Randy Fields, Repositrak
FST Soapbox

Sanitary Transportation Rule: Ignore at Your Own Peril

By Randy Fields
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Randy Fields, Repositrak

FDA posted the FSMA rule on the Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food in April. The majority of retailers, wholesalers, suppliers and carriers will have one year to comply with this new rule. The sanitary transportation rule sets out to prevent practices that would introduce contamination risk during the transportation of food through the supply chain.

For retailers, wholesalers, suppliers and carriers, the final rule is really the sleeper regulation among the new FSMA laws. You probably have your HAACP plans and preventative control procedures in place, but do you have the necessary documents in place with your carriers to meet the FDA’s requirements?  And, are those documents easily accessible?

Under FSMA, you must address all FDA record inquiries within 24 hours, and these inquiries can go back two years, plus 12 months beyond the expiration of related service agreements. Failure to respond to an FDA records inquiry is considered a “prohibited act” and can land you in hot water with both the FDA and Department of Justice, which acknowledged they will enforce FSMA through civil and criminal penalties. That’s a game changer.

You are now required to ensure that transportation equipment does not cause the food it is carrying to become unsafe. You must also maintain adequate temperatures throughout your portion of the supply chain and prevent cross contamination. And, you must train your personnel in sanitary practices. All of these factors—processes and procedures, agreements and formal training of personnel—must be documented and made available to the FDA. Put simply, compliance with FSMA is proven through documentation because according to the FDA, if it is not documented, it did not happen!

So what’s the best way to comply with the new rules? Having the information on paper in filing cabinets simply won’t do. Can you imagine searching for specific confirmation that an employee received the proper training in a bank of file cabinets? Even with an efficient system, that could be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Collecting the information in spreadsheets is only slightly better, as it simply digitizes the disorganization.

Retailers, wholesalers, suppliers and carriers need to start their compliance process by reviewing and understanding all of the FSMA rules, guidance procedures and responsibilities. You ignore them at your own peril.

Then, consider automating your recording keeping system.  It is really the only way to efficiently collect and manage the documentation needed to comply with the new law.  When reviewing technology options, make sure you choose a system that is not only easy to use by frontline workers, but also provides sophisticated reporting and alerts to point out potential problems in real time. And, if possible, the solution should do more than just report on food safety activities. As long as you’re investing in a technology to meet FSMA requirements, you might as well implement a system that can potentially save money in other areas such as managing business or training documentation, new vendor approvals, or carrier optimization.

The bottom line is that the sanitary transportation rule will require that you devote additional resources to make the entire extended grocery channel more risk free for consumers and companies alike. And the best way to do that is to implement new technology that gives visibility to product transfers from point of production or processing to the point of purchase, and documents each step along the way.

Survey: Not All Food Companies Sure if FSMA Applies, More Help Needed

By Maria Fontanazza
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How ready is your company for FSMA compliance?
How ready is your company for FSMA compliance? 69% are somewhat ready, 25% are ready, and 6% are not ready at all, according to a recent survey. (Click to enlarge)

Many companies need to prepare for FSMA compliance by September, yet three out of four only consider themselves “somewhat ready”, according to a recent survey of about 400 food companies. However, the findings generally indicate that companies are taking action now to be FSMA ready—they just might need some help along the way.

Sponsored by SafetyChain Software and The Acheson Group, “2016 FSMA Readiness & Compliance Strategy” surveyed mainly U.S. companies (88% with more than $1 million in revenue) that produce and manufacture food for human consumption.

An effective food safety plan is a fundamental part of FSMA compliance. The majority of participants (80%) are either currently updating their food safety plans or plan on doing so this year. Conducting a gap analysis is a common way to assess the effectiveness of a food safety plan: 84% of respondents plan to conduct a gap analysis, have one in progress, or have already completed the exercise. More than half of these companies are tackling it using internal resources, and 29% are seeking expertise outside their organization.

85% of companies surveyed know which rules apply to their company. Survey sponsored by Safety Chain and The Acheson Group
85% of companies surveyed know which rules apply to their company. Survey sponsored by SafetyChain and The Acheson Group

Documentation plays a large role in meeting FSMA requirements, and in the event of an audit, companies must be able to produce records within 24 hours. The good news is that 76% of companies say they can retrieve records required by FDA within this time span, but 22% are still unsure. Half of the organizations anticipate being audit ready on day one of FSMA enactment. And despite a push to migrate to electronic documentation, most of the companies surveyed (84%) still keep both paper and electronic records; only 3% keep strictly electronic documents.

FSMA compliance, technology
Companies indicate that they’re using technology to aid in FSMA compliance.

The survey authors concluded that companies still need more information on how they can meet FSMA requirements, what resources are available, and how certain systems can help. In addition, they indicated that corporate executives must play a larger role in implementing compliance.

John Sammon, ParTech
Retail Food Safety Forum

Break the Pencil: Goodbye Paper, Hello Technology

By John Sammon III
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John Sammon, ParTech

With the passage of FSMA, any location that handles food for public consumption must implement Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plans to reduce food safety risks across the food chain. Many businesses with multiple locations in the restaurant and retail industries are finding that traditional paper-based methods of record keeping are no longer adequate to comply with the FSMA. By abandoning paper-based systems and adopting cloud-based technology, restaurant and retail locations can embrace and enforce stronger food safety cultures and help eliminate human error.

According to the CDC, each year an estimated 48 million Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from foodborne disease.

Why? The process of purchasing, transporting, preparing and serving food heavily revolves around individual human behaviors related to cooking, cleaning, handling and refrigerating food. When employees do not follow the correct processes and procedures, it can lead to accidental food safety issues.

FSMA & HACCP Plans

In an effort to shift from responding to food contamination incidents after the fact to proactively preventing them, the FDA introduced FSMA in 2011. To allow businesses time to adjust to new rules and regulations, the FSMA requirements are implemented in phases, which began in September 2015 and will continue through May 2016.

As part of a larger food safety initiative, FSMA requires any business that handles food for public consumption to implement a HACCP plan. The purpose of the plan and its procedures is to identify potential hazards in any food-related processes where a lapse in attention or failure to complete a task could turn a potential hazard into an actual one.

The three main components of an HACCP plan that are required to be documented are:

  • Hazards: Evaluate potential hazards that exist in the enterprise. For example, how, when and why Salmonella or Listeria could migrate into a finished product
  • Critical Control Points: Identify critical control points where failures could occur, such as when products are moved from preparation to the sales floor
  • Preventative Steps: Establish the preventative steps that must be followed at each critical control point to reduce hazards, for example, interval checks to make sure correct temperatures, whether hot or cold, are consistently maintained

FSMA also mandates a record of food safety compliance to ensure a company follows its HACCP plan. Every location must document all actions, including ongoing monitoring of when a problem was spotted and corrective actions taken. These records, which have traditionally been created and maintained with pen or pencil and paper logs, must be kept for a minimum of two years.

Deli worker checks cold food temperatures using a handheld probe and wireless device. Maintaining proper food temperatures and recording checks for consistency is an important part of HACCP guidelines.
Deli worker checks cold food temperatures using a handheld probe and wireless device. Maintaining proper food temperatures and recording checks for consistency is an important part of HACCP guidelines.

Compliance Challenges

With multiple locations and an ever-changing labor force, it is difficult for companies to be confident that the food they sell is safe and that every employee is acting diligently when it comes to food safety across the entire enterprise.

In a busy restaurant or retail environment with ever-changing customer demands for a variety of different products and services, a food safety culture and plan can unintentionally become compromised.

With local farmers to international food manufacturers supplying fresh, frozen and prepared foods and a variety of workers in contact with each for different reasons, it can be difficult to track food safety procedures.

Add an inefficient, manual, paper-based food safety record-keeping system that does not proactively remind employees to complete tasks or prompt corrective actions when needed, and you are opening the door to potential problems.

It’s Time to Break the Pencil

Companies must implement the highest standards of food safety processes at all levels and locations. Once a food safety culture is defined, it needs to be enforced every day. Employees should be well trained on policies, feel empowered and mandated to behave consistently.

A major part of the solution is abandoning traditional pen or pencil and paper-based record-keeping systems. By adopting technology, restaurants and retail locations can embrace and enforce stronger a food safety culture and help eliminate human error.

Electronic and intelligent checklists and digital record keeping on mobile, handheld solutions that are integrated into the Internet of Things (IoT) represent a major technological advancement over what was previously possible, and can manage and dynamically influence food safety processes. Through connectivity to the cloud, mobile, digital solutions can be deployed anywhere throughout a business, from warehouses to sales floors, to prompt the desired behaviors and provide a detailed, accurate audit trail of completion. Devices can also keep track of relevant safety alerts and recalls to improve efficiencies and initiate steps that may not be part of a typical routine.

Daily employee work schedules can be preloaded and custom electronic-based checklists and templates can be built specifically around potential hazards to manage employee tasks and processes. Any missed steps or violations are flagged for easy correction.

As tasks are completed, data is electronically gathered and transmitted directly to the cloud where it can be stored, analyzed and reported for compliance.

In addition, through the cloud and IoT, employees at various levels of an organization, from corporate headquarters to store managers, can view and access real-time data from each location. New information can be uploaded from any location and automatically distributed to a particular store, region or all locations across an enterprise. Enterprise-wide access helps ensure all locations are practicing the most up-to-date HACCP plan and procedures.

Digital food safety solutions have many benefits for a business:

  • Overall Food Safety: Ensures critical control points are monitored and proper corrective actions are taken when necessary
  • Higher Performance: Employees are reminded to complete assigned tasks, so more tasks are completed on time with fewer misses
  • Audit Trail: Detailed, automated audit trail of who completed the action, what time it was completed and the data retrieved from the action
  • Process Improvement: A single database of comprehensive information detailing timing, missed checklists, commonly missed items and top violations to help improve overall processes
  • Cost Savings: Fewer resources are needed to complete food safety inspections, a 60% reduction in time compared to pen or pencil and paper-based systems1
  • Quality Improvement: In addition to HACCP compliance, the information gathered can be used for quality control. For example identifying where there has been over- or under-cooking in the food preparation process

Handheld, wireless and cloud-based technologies can serve as more accurate, reliable and efficient systems. Electronic systems are part of the solution for businesses to comply with new FSMA regulations and improve food safety procedures. When implemented properly, these technologies can help turn food safety in a positive direction and potentially avoid the next foodborne illness outbreak.

Reference

  1. National Grocers Innovation Center, Center for Advancing Retail Technology. Intelligent Checklist for Quality and Safety in the Supermarket. Retrieved from http://info.partech.com/whitepaper-intelligent-checklist-for-food-safety

The Future of Technology, Compliance and Food Safety

By Jason Dea
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There is no question that we are in the midst of a unique time period in history. Technology is continuing to innovate at an increasingly rapid rate, which has led to drastic changes that affect nearly every corner of day-to-day life. From the way we find information to our food choices, technology is influencing our lives in new ways.

The Rise of the Internet

Mary Meeker, the venture capitalist who was dubbed the “Queen of the Internet” more than 15 years ago, has described the current Internet age as a period of reimagining. At the heart of this reimagining has been the rapid growth, maturity and adoption of the Internet and Internet-enabled technologies.

In her most recent 2015 research, Meeker published some fascinating statistics. The number of people online has ballooned more 80 times, from a user base of a mere 35 million in 1995 to a staggering 2.8 billion users in less than 20 years. This figure translates into nearly 40% of the total global population.

InternetUsers_2014
A breakdown of the 2.8 billion Internet users in 2014. This figure (39% global penetration) exploded from the approximately 35 million users in 1995. Source: Internet Trends 2015 – Code Conference

It hasn’t just been the volume of usage that has evolved radically. The nature by which those billions of users are signing online has also changed. It’s hard to believe that the original iPhone was released in 2007, less than 10 years ago. In that time, the mobile Internet has gone from a novelty to a necessity for many of us in our daily lives. This smartphone adoption has fueled Internet use and has drastically increased the ease with which consumers can get online.

Reimagining Communication and Compliance

The result of our new “always-on,” globally connected world (to borrow Meeker’s term) is a complete reimagining of communication. Consumers expect a velocity and volume of communication that the world has never before experienced. We now take for granted that we can reach friends, family and acquaintances anywhere in the world—at any time—in an instant. This has also drastically changed our expectations of business relationships.

Consumers in an ever-connected world have an expectation of availability and transparency of information from the brands with which they interact and the establishments they frequent. What this means for businesses is that customers expect to have a degree of access to business data that they’ve never asked for previously.

A tangible side effect of this desire for data transparency can be seen within the regulatory environment that organizations operate. Governments and regulatory bodies have increased their expectations of data access and availability over time, resulting in more stringent regulations across the board.

Research from Enhesa shows that the regulatory growth rate is nearly as staggering as Internet growth rates. According to the firm’s research, from 2007–2014 regulatory increases by region were as follows:

  • North America: +146%
  • Europe: +206%
  • Asia: +104%

Impact on Food Safety: Consumer Engagement and Regulatory Growth

One particular area of regulatory growth has occurred within the food and beverage sector. Arguably no product category has a more direct impact on consumers than food, as it literally fuels us each day. It’s no wonder that in an environment of increasing regulations and more empowered consumers that food quality and food safety are under increased scrutiny.

In today’s environment, it becomes much more challenging to brush aside product recalls and food safety incidents or bury these stories in specialized media. The latest news is not just a fleeting negative headline. In a worst-case scenario these incidents are viral, voracious and more shareable than ever before. From Listeria outbreaks to contaminated meat to questionable farming practices—when fueled by the Internet, the negative branding impact of these stories can be staggering. Consumers are paying attention and engaging with these stories—for example, during a Listeria or Salmonella outbreak, online searches for these terms significantly rise.

The rise of hyper-aware consumers has had a measurable impact. As a result, governments have been quick to respond and have beefed up existing regulations for the food and beverage sector via FSMA and GFSI.